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The Year of Magical Thinking Paperback – February 13, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
After her husband's fatal heart attack, which came at a time when their daughter Quintana was in intensive care for complications after pneumonia, Didion was labeled "a pretty cool customer" by a social worker because she seemed to be handling these shocks so calmly. Caruso's reading certainly reflects this aspect of Didion's reaction—sometimes her clear, elegant voice seems downright cold, making the listener wish for a little more emotion. The slightly eerie sounds of bells and cello that swell in at occasional breaks in the narration help in this respect, but mostly the audiobook is as straightforward a production as Didion wanted her life to be in that horrible year. Throughout those months, Didion immersed herself in the literature of grief and quotes frequently from poets and writers who helped her come to terms with her pain. Caruso does a good job with these passages, lingering on and highlighting certain phrases that Didion returns to time and again, shifting their meaning slightly as she progresses. Despite trying to write in an almost clinically detached way, Didion's sorrow and anger do break through at times in the book. Unfortunately, Caruso's cool reserve never cracks, so this audio ends up making less of an impact than the National Book Award– winning print edition.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From The New Yorker
Didion's husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, died of a heart attack, just after they had returned from the hospital where their only child, Quintana, was lying in a coma. This book is a memoir of Dunne's death, Quintana's illness, and Didion's efforts to make sense of a time when nothing made sense. "She's a pretty cool customer," one hospital worker says of her, and, certainly, coolness was always part of the addictive appeal of Didion's writing. The other part was the dark side of cool, the hyper-nervous awareness of the tendency of things to go bad. In 2004, Didion had her own disasters to deal with, and she did not, she feels, deal with them coolly, or even sanely. This book is about getting a grip and getting on; it's also a tribute to an extraordinary marriage.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
This book is a personal account of grief and the myriad of ways it showed up in Didion's life in the first year following the death of her husband, John, and around the life-threatening illnesses that concurrently and subsequently imperiled the life of their daughter, Quintana, during that same year. Dedicated to John and Quintana, it is by turns searing and poignant.
True to the spirit of grief, there are some very funny moments and there are some very painful moments. Near the end of the book, Didion writes: "I realize as I write this that I do not want to finish this account." She laments for all of us who mourn the death of a loved one.
For more information on loss and change, grief and bereavement, go to LeaningIntoLoss.com.
I won't 'review' this book, as it's been done by far better writers than myself. I would say that anyone touched by grief will find familiar ground here (not comfort; this book is FAR from comforting).
I'll read and reread it for many years to come.
The book was worth reading, though not as good as I had hoped. She does pose "the question of self-pity", yet seems to answer that what seems to be self pity is the normal state of mind of the one who is "left behind" by the deceased. Also emphasized is that the state of mind of one who is grieving is anything but normal, but rather a sort of deranged condition from which, however, one is expected to recover. I gleaned a few insights, and a desire to read more about this topic, as well as to write about my own loss as my mother has recently passed away. Yet the book left me rather unsatisfied in terms of conclusions learned from the experience. I do not wonder that John had expressed their lack of "having fun" to her some months before the event, and I am glad that he did convince her to go to France so that he could see Paris for "one last time" the previous month. I am saddened to learn that Quintana did eventually die in the year after the book's publication. I will probably read some other works by this author, and I will be curious to know what she will write next.
A memoir, this book examines grief and love in the face of death. Published two years after the death of Joan Didion's husband, Didion describes her life in the immediate aftermath. With her daughter in the hospital, Didion didn't neither another tragedy. However, as she repeats often, “Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.” Her daughter is between life and death, but when death comes it takes her husband instead.
Although about grief, this book isn't maudlin. Didion writes with an almost cool distance that allows the reader to see how disconnected she felt from her life. Everything is the facts as she remembers them, seen through her attempts to understand the change that life has thrust at her. She researches death and presents us her findings. She wracks her memories of the event and presents us only with her subjective point of view. Everywhere the memory of John and of their life together haunts her, and so haunts us.
Simple, honest, and brave are the words I would use to describe this book. Didion bares herself to us in one of the hardest times of her life and I don't think many would have the guts to do that. The writing isn't showy, but boiled down to the bare necessities and strung together in a way that echoes the honesty of the events being told.
I haven't lived through enough grief to truly understand what Didion feels, but this book allows me to sympathize. And I hope that it also gives me tools that will allow me to approach grief with dignity when the time comes.
Didion says that she never wrote John letters because they were always together. This book is a love letter that could only be written now that they are apart.